Penn State Wears Prada

← Back to News

Published by Inside Higher Ed

But Hall and her four-member team have guided several marketing coups over the past few years, which she says have more than made up for that minor glitch. Among their efforts: placing multiple-page spreads featuring Penn State students in popular fashion magazines; forging a contract with MTV for reality-based programs set on the State College campus; and leading a five-year “Integrated Teen Campaign” that targets high school juniors and seniors not through traditional viewbooks and brochures, but by talking to them individually and through market research.

While the approaches have correlated with increases in applicants over the last few years, marketing experts are divided on the impact of such campaigns.   


Richard A. Hesel, co-founder of the Art & Science Group, a higher education marketing and consulting firm, has some concerns about Penn State’s advertising efforts. “This is a perfect example of ego-based marketing,” he says. “I think it’s kind of superficial. It plays into a sense of academic non-seriousness.” He notes that he has consulted for other smaller institutions in Pennsylvania that are none too thrilled with Penn State's growth in recent years.

Hesel also says that about 50 percent of the growth in applications can be attributed to sheer shifts in demographics. Research indicates that there will continue to be a steady rise in public high school graduates in Pennsylvania until three years from now, then a steep fall of about 15 to 20 percent over four to five years.

Read full article →